Intertidal resource use over millennia enhances forest productivity

Andrew J. Trant, Wiebe Nijland, Kira M. Hoffman, Darcy L. Mathews, Duncan McLaren, Trisalyn Nelson, Brian M. Starzomski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Human occupation is usually associated with degraded landscapes but 13,000 years of repeated occupation by British Columbia's coastal First Nations has had the opposite effect, enhancing temperate rainforest productivity. This is particularly the case over the last 6,000 years when intensified intertidal shellfish usage resulted in the accumulation of substantial shell middens. We show that soils at habitation sites are higher in calcium and phosphorous. Both of these are limiting factors in coastal temperate rainforests. Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) trees growing on the middens were found to be taller, have higher wood calcium, greater radial growth and exhibit less top die-back. Coastal British Columbia is the first known example of long-term intertidal resource use enhancing forest productivity and we expect this pattern to occur at archaeological sites along coastlines globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12491
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Aug 30 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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